Wegovy Works in a Pill Formulation
Quick Boost #1. An incredibly popular weight loss medication helps people lose 15% of their body weight.
I’m going to try out a new type of shorter post mixed in with the longer articles I write. Sometimes I read a news headline, digest a journal article, or find a new tool that I think is worth highlighting. Briefly! I’ve learned that writing with an economy of words can be as difficult as writing long form articles. So here is my first try. I’m going to call these quick boosts. I’ll present something in one paragraph, then I’ll reflect on it in a second from a primary care doc’s perspective. You can still expect the deep dives and regular writing I do here, but let me know if you like this new idea.
Wegovy, the incredibly popular new weight loss treatment, will soon be available in a pill formulation in addition to a weekly injection. The scientific name of the medicine is called semaglutide. When used to treat diabetes it is rebranded as Ozempic or Rybelsus, but it’s basically all the same medicine. Previous clinical trials showed that once weekly injections with Wegovy helped overweight/obese patients lose about 15% of their body weight. Just today Novo Nordisk, the makers of semaglutide, announced that in a trial of about 700 adults, oral tablets also produced 15% body weight loss over 12-17 months. Those on placebo lost 2.4%. The most common side effects remained gastrointestinal.
Semaglutide is already a blockbuster medicine. Similar to other GLP-1 agonists it can be used to treat diabetes, but at higher dosages has been found to be incredibly effective at helping people lose weight. It is so popular that shortages of this medicine are common, and Novo Nordisk recently announced they are halting advertisements until they can better meet demand. [Soon to be approved for weight loss, a similar medicine called Mounjaro is also in high demand. As of this writing it is only FDA-approved for treating diabetes, but approval for weight loss is any day now]. Semaglutide retails for $800-1,000 per month, and not all insurances cover it. There is already a pill formulation on the market actually, called Rybelsus as noted above, but this is only approved for diabetes treatment. Expect the FDA to approve it for overweight/obesity treatment by the end of the year. Most people would rather take a pill once a day, and so I expect prescriptions will keep going up. As I wrote in a previous post, being overweight is not a simple [calories in minus calories out] equation. The medical community increasingly recognizes obesity as a chronic medical condition, and treatments like semaglutide make sense in combination with diet, exercise, and all the rest. There are potential downsides including pancreatitis, rare thyroid tumors in mice, and the potential for rebound weight gain after a year or so when the medications are discontinued. But for many people, semaglutide is producing results they never achieved by any other means. A pill will only make it that much easier.
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